LAHORE: Up to 1,717 Sikh pilgrims arrived on Saturday in Pakistan from India at Wahga Railway Station by two trains to participate in the Besakhi festival.
The immigration authorities at Wahga deported one of the Sikhs as his visa documents were not valid, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Azhar Sulehri said. He said the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi had issued visas to 2,000 pilgrims.
At Wahga, ETPB Chairman Siddqul Farooq with other officials received the pilgrims.
“Whenever we come to Pakistan, we feel it our second home,” Yatrees’ group leader Suran Singh Gill told reporters.
He said they had brought a message of peace, love, brotherhood, friendship and harmony for Pakistanis.
Another pilgrim Sardar Jangjeet Singh Behlar said they had great respect for Pakistan for it being the soil of their religious and spiritual gurus and leaders. He thanked ETPB authorities the Pakistani government for facilitating them.
SCHEDULE: Yatrees departed for Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal where they would stay till April 14. In the 10-day tour, festival’s main ceremony will be held at Panja Sahibon April 14. They will go to Nankana Sahib on April 15 by train. On April 16, pilgrims will depart for Sacha Soda in Farooqabad and return to Lahore the next day to visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib.
The same day, they will visit Gurdwaras Rohri Sahib and Darbar Sahib in Gujranwala and Narowal. They will return to Lahore on April 18. On April 20, they will leave Lahore for India.
“A reception for pilgrims is also being planned at Lahore Fort on April 18 by the Diyal Singh Research and Cultural Centre,” an ETPB official told this reporter. He said 70 more pilgrims had also arrived in Pakistan from Canada, the UK and some other countries for the festival. He said pilgrims were being provided A-category security. “At Wahga, they were provided security from Rangers, police and Railway police,” the official added.